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Testo’s

853 4th Ave. (corner of 124th St.), Troy, 235-0444. Serving Tue-Sat 11:30-9. D, MC, V.

Cuisine: classic Italian

Entrée price range: $7.25 (spaghetti dinner) to $13.75 (linguini with clam sauce)

Ambiance: neighborhood eatery

 

A Troy Tradition

By B. A. Nilsson

Like Uncle Sam, Testo’s is a Troy institution, a 31-year-old phenomenon that defies both the logic and the odds of the restaurant industry. No effort is made here to adapt to dining trends. No market-research-fueled design innovations have changed the look of the place. As other North Troy eateries come and go, Testo’s continues to do what it’s been doing all along. And it thrives.

We saw the evidence during a recent middle-of-the-week visit. We arrived before six for dinner (early for me) and found the place already dotted with diners; by the time we left, it was practically full. And that doesn’t count the vigorous take-out business.

“We’ve stayed the course,” says John Testo, one of the second-generation owners. “We’ve weathered all the storms.” The secret, he explains, is simple: “We stick with what we do best.”

He runs the place with his brother, Chuck; their father founded it and developed a menu based on familiar family recipes.

The food addict in me loves oversized, multi-page menus in imposing bindings. A seemingly unlimited amount of food is available; the possibilities seem reassuringly endless. And then comes the moment of truth. The server stands by, order pad poised, eyebrows up, waiting. What’ll it be?

You scan the pages in a panic now. Do I commit to lasagna? Do I really want a steak? Because this is it: This is your dinner.

Thankfully, at Testo’s you’re confronted with a compact menu, two pages of options that pretty much cover the standards. And the indecisive diner in me was grateful.

We had an antipasto ($8.50) to start, proving that even with only two pages in front of me I’m incapable of reading closely—two of the entrées we ordered are served with salads. Even though our very accommodating server no doubt would have let me change my appetizer without fuss, I was too stubborn or embarrassed (or both) to budge.

Besides, that meant that the salad recipients—my wife and daughter—would be less inclined to plunder my antipasto plate, and who, when you get right down to it, really wants to share food? There’s a deep, antediluvian desire to hoard.

Nothing unexpected about the antipasto. A bed of unchallenging iceberg, slices of salami and a couple of types of ham, onions, olives, tomatoes, chunks of provolone—your standard-issue assortment, but an easygoing starter when there’s pasta ahead.

And this isn’t to ignore the other appetizer choices, which include roasted red peppers, pasta e fagioli, mozzarella sticks, chicken wings and more, and even a fried combo platter, all in the $6-$7 range.

Here are the bargains. Pasta dinners, starting with spaghetti, ziti or linguine, served with a salad and bread, for $7.25. Add mushrooms or peppers, or make a dinner out of cavatelli, it’s $10. And for less than $11 there’s ravioli, lasagna, stuffed shells and more, including my daughter’s entrée: ziti Alfredo with broccoli ($10.75).

Alfredo means cream, a cream sauce made with egg yolks and cheese, about as rich a topping as they come, a dinner that lights up the palate. For once, she wasn’t the least interested in the pizza I ordered, and she insists that had nothing to do with the anchovies on it.

That’s my pizza secret, you see. Top it with anchovies and you never have to share. Testo’s is justifiably celebrated for its pizza, boxes of which fly out of the place like a blizzard, and your dinner options are eight- or 12-cut pies with the familiar choice of toppings. Go with one item and it’s $9.50 for the eight-cut—a generous-sized square pan—and $13 for the 12. The eight will serve three people who aren’t too worried about the math.

I went with an eight-cut topped with “the works,” a monument of sausage and mushrooms and peppers and onions and on and on and, of course, those salty little fish strips. A terrific dinner, and a terrific lunch the following day.

Only one chicken preparation is listed, so it took my wife a few moments to zero in on it. (Were chickens ever to disappear from the earth, I’d have to find a new dining companion.) As parmigiana, it’s available on a mozzarella-topped torpedo roll ($6.75) or in dinner form ($11.50). She ordered the latter, which comes with a side of spaghetti, and there’s not much out of the ordinary to report. It’s a classic.

Other entrée options include eggplant parmigiana ($11.50), sausage and peppers or sausage and mushrooms ($12), veal and peppers, veal parmigiana or veal and eggplant ($13.50). The most costly items, at $13.75 apiece, are the seafood dishes, which include baked haddock, shrimp scampi, baked scallops and linguine with red or white clam sauce.

We had a show to catch; we didn’t stay for dessert. But we did stop in next door and pick up a quart of Testo’s meat sauce, a product good enough to make it to the shelves of local supermarkets. Tonight I’ll prepare some pasta, top it with the sauce, and enjoy an echo of the pleasant time at Testo’s. I’ll even share it with the rest of my family.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


TABLE SCRAPS

Nicole’s Bistro (Clinton & Broadway, Albany) celebrates its 23rd anniversary with a special dinner at 6 PM on Friday, Nov 16. A champagne reception kicks things off, then enjoy halibut and sole dumplings in a lobster cognac sauce, arugula and endive salad, and a Trio of Veal entrée, each course paired with an appropriate wine. And there’s dessert! Music is performed by Ed Clifford. Tickets to the perception are $80 per person plus tax and gratuity. Call 465-1111. . . . Travel to Italy by way of the Adirondacks when Milano North and the Courtyard by Marriott host a getaway weekend in Lake Placid Nov 9-11. The two-night stay includes a wine reception Friday, two breakfasts, and a five-course Italian wine dinner on Saturday featuring the wines of the Feudi di San Gregorio Estate, a winery in southern Italy’s Campania region. Export manager Robin Shay will to introduce the wines at the dinner. Prices are $550 per couple, $395 per single, taxes and gratuities included; there also are seats available for the wine dinner only ($75 per person). Call 523-2900 for the weekend, 523-3003 for the dinner only. . . . Liz and Jerry Lavalley, owners of Manchester, Vt.’s Reluctant Panther (which includes an excellent restaurant reviewed here a few months back) were recently named Innkeepers of the Year by Governor Douglas. . . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland.


We want your feedback

Have you eaten at any recently reviewed restaurants? Agree or disagree with B.A.? Let us know what you think...

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What you're saying...

I very much enjoyed eating dinner at Daniel's at Ogdens. You review described my dining experience perfectly. This wasn't the case with Pancho's. I much prefer Garcia's or Lake View Tavern for Mexican fare. I agree that a restaurant can have an off night so I'll give the second unit on Central Avenue a try.

Mary Kurtz
Castleton

First, yes I miss the star ratings, bring it back. Second, I haven't had a chance to visit Poncho's yet, but I especially like reading the reviews.

Pat Russo
East Greenbush

I would travel to Amsterdam to this restaurant - it's not that far away. People traveled from all over to eat at Ferrandi's in Amsterdam. From his background, I'm sure the chef's sauce is excellent and that is the most important aspect of an Italian restaurant. Sometimes your reviewer wastes words on the negative aspects of a restaurant. I'm looking forward to trying this restaurant - I look forward to Metroland every Thursday especially for the restaurant review. And by the way Ferrandi's closed its Amsterdam location and is opening a new bistro on Saratoga Lake - Should be up and running in May. It will be called Saratoga Lake Bistro. It should be great!

Peggy Van Deloo
Schenectady

So happy to see you finally made out!! Our experiences have always been wonderful, the staff is extremely professional, the food subperb, and the atmosphere very warm and comfortable. Let us not forget to mention "Maria" the pianist on Friday and Saturday nights.

Charlie and Marie
Michaels Restaurant

I have been to Michael's several times and each time I have enjoyed it very much. The food is delicious and the staff is great. Also, Maria Riccio Bryce plays piano there every Friday and Saturday evening, a nice touch to add to the already wonderful atmosphere. It is also easy to find, exit 27 off the thruway to 30 north for about 5 miles.

N. Moore
Albany

Wonderful!

Elaine Snowdon
Albany

We loved it and will definitely go back.

Rosemarie Rafferty

Absolutely excellent. The quality and the flavor far surpasses that of other Indian restaurants in the area. I was a die-hard Shalimar fan and Tandoor Palace won my heart. It blows Ghandi out of the water. FInally a decent place in Albany where you can get a good dinner for less than $10 and not have tacos. The outdoor seating is also festive.

Brady G'sell

Indian is my favorite cuisine available in the area--I loved Tandoor Palace. We all agreed that the tandoori chicken was superior to other local restaraunts, and we also tried the ka-chori based on that intriguing description-delicious.

Kizzi Casale
Albany

Your comments about the Indian / Pakistani restaurants being as "standardized as McDonald's" shows either that you have eaten at only a few Indian / Pakistani restaurants or that you have some prejudices to work out. That the physical appearances are not what you would consider fancy dancy has no bearing on the food. And after all, that is what the main focus of the reviews should be. Not the physical appearances, which is what most of your reviews concentrate on.
A restaurant like The Shalimar, down on Central Avenue, may not look the greatest, but the food is excellent there. And the menu has lots of variety - beef, lamb, vegetarian, chicken, and more..

Barry Uznitsky
Guilderland



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